Dated design and dark, stuffy office spaces aren’t just uncomfortable to work in – they may be driving people away. Today’s knowledge workers (especially millennials) expect welcoming commercial interiors that encourage creativity, not stifle it.
“The millennial generation is not used to sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week. They want the ability to move around between various environments in the workplace so they can conduct their work and also relax,” says John P. Yodzis, President and COO of DOW Electronics, which recently revamped its space to replace tall 1990s-style cubicles with low-profile workstations and contemporary collaboration rooms. “We’ve done a really good job of keeping it fun while still maintaining a business environment.”
Defining that balance in your own commercial interiors requires due diligence with anyone who works there, adds Todd Haywood, Director of Facilities, Security and Business Continuity Management at Motorists Insurance Company, which recently renovated the third floor of its Columbus, OH, facility. “Find out how they’re going to work and what their needs are, then find the most economical means of putting that together. Make sure once that group moves into the space, they’re comfortable and have everything they need to do their job properly.”
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“It’s really important to give people the flexibility to get up from their desks and work in a different environment so they’re not in the same spot all day,” Savage explains. “If you can give them options, especially options with natural light and different types of seating, it’s an easy way to bring some changes to offices without a big budget.”
If you’re revamping collaborative spaces, make sure they fit employees’ needs by considering these tips.
- Durable materials are important for spaces in commercial interiors that will be used throughout the day, says David Chason, Partner of commercial design firm AEI U.S. Studio.
- Vary sizes and furnishings for meeting spaces. More options fit more needs.
- Location is crucial. Collaborative spaces should be close to individual work areas so colleagues can duck in quickly and easily, but not so close that collaborators disrupt people who are engaged in focus work.
“The amount and quality of light that people need is very important, which is why WELL and LEED certification require that everybody has access to natural light throughout the day. Make sure people have access to windows and views,” says Juliana Fernandez, Founding Partner of AEI.
Allowing natural light into the building and using lights that are even and appear natural were critical to improving the featured commercial interiors. The following tips can help you follow suit.
- The building perimeter can be your ally if you configure commercial interiors properly. Avoiding light-trapping walls will let natural light enter the rest of the facility.
- Bright walls in commercial interiors reflect light into spaces, allowing you to maximize the usefulness of available daylight.
- Mitigate daylighting glare with films, shades or other options for improved productivity and reduced distraction.
- Glass fronts throughout the interior of the building allow you to divide the floor space into offices and conference rooms while still letting in natural light.
- Even lighting also helps productivity. “I see a lot of office space where the lighting quality is poor, and it leads to eyestrain, headaches and distraction. A good lighting system makes an office feel better and function better,” explains Dan Perruzzi, Principal and Senior Partner at Margulies Perruzzi Architects.
- Well-lit corners, especially near windows, are great places to add nooks and crannies for relaxation or impromptu meetings.
Connect with Employees to Improve Workstations in Commercial Interiors
“Before a project, we do visioning, which is sitting down and interviewing employees to understand their likes or dislikes,” says David Chason, Partner at AEI U.S. Studio. “We always start by asking what do you like or not like about your spaces and what works or doesn’t work for you, and that starts us on a journey.”
The following advice will help ensure that individual workstations in commercial interiors effectively accommodate workers.
- Understand employee needs before bringing in new furnishings or rearranging spaces, explains Chason. For example, Globant provides plenty of individual workstations for its engineers because they frequently need multiple computers and monitors, which require large spaces with robust desks.
- Height-adjustable desks don’t have to cost much, advises Barbara Savage, Senior Associate at Stantec. “People think adjustable desks are all expensive because they’re electronic, but there are models on the market that are adjusted by crank. That keeps the cost of the mechanism down, plus you don’t have to provide power for that table,” explains Savage. “There are also units that just sit on a desk and raise the computer up to standing height. It doesn’t have to be a budget buster.”
- Keep visibility in mind, suggests Ginger Warner, Territory Representative for DIRTT. “There’s a big push to get away from individual offices and toward open-plan commercial interiors. The whole point is to have space for people to collaborate because everybody’s visible to each other and adjacent to each other,” Warner says. “However, even when you have a fairly traditional office space with offices on the perimeter and workspaces at the center, you still want to have as much visibility to each other as possible.”
- Versatile furniture and equipment in each workstation will allow employees to personalize their space to meet their needs while also enabling collaboration and engagement with nearby colleagues.
“Everybody’s talking about treadmill desks or height-adjustable desks, but it’s also healthy to just get out of your workspace,” says David Chason, Partner at AEI U.S. Studio. “The idea is for an employee to feel that they can use the square footage of the entire company, whether it’s 2 floors or 10 floors. Maybe certain types of coffee are only available on certain floors or specialty teas are placed on one floor. Not everything is at your fingertips – you have to move around the space, which benefits everyone’s health.”
While some of the featured commercial interiors have made major changes to improve efforts in fitness and wellness, many of their improvements were accomplished with minor adjustments to the workspace. The following tips provide starting points to make your facility a healthier place.
- Showers are an important component of exercise spaces where employees can work up a sweat, but they can also aid your building’s resilience during a crisis. When a hurricane hit the Fort Lauderdale, FL, area, Valley Forge was already prepared to help employees – the entire space runs off of a generator that can fill in during power outages, and the company installed extra showers and a larger locker room during its renovation so employees could head to the office for showers and hot meals in case of an emergency.
- Know your company culture. “You can design height-adjustable desks, but just because your desk is adjustable doesn’t mean you’ll stand all day,” says Barbara Savage, Senior Associate at Stantec. “It has to be part of the culture.”
- Instead of a vending machine, Savage recommends bringing in free-access healthy snacks.
- Green walls, moss walls and other interior plantscaping encourage occupant health.
- Consider a living wall or a selection of trees, plants or flowers in place of artwork.
Benefit from Active Amenities
“Many employees bike or run into work, so integrating shower rooms into their workplaces is accelerating as a national trend,” says Brent Ziegler, President and Director of Design at Dyer Brown. “A lot of companies are beginning to do that so people can exercise during lunch or ride into work and get ready for the day.”
In addition to incentivizing healthy activity, providing amenities in commercial interiors can also help to maximize the use of time that workers spend at the office. Jordan Guenther, Director of Property Management at Eastman Companies, suggests employees save 15 minutes each day when they have access to amenities on-site – time that would otherwise be lost with building occupants leaving the facility to exercise.
“When occupants come to work, we have the amenities in the building that will satisfy their needs, and they won’t have to go outside,” Guenther adds.